Sound: Bits and Sampling Rate
This is an area about which I personally feel strongly, yet it gets very little coverage in most moviemaking discussions. Because let’s face it, sound is not that sexy (at least compared to graphics and images).
But sound quality is an attribute where digital has almost completely replaced analog. Nearly all productions today record sound digitally, either directly into the camera or separately using Digital Audio Tape (DAT) or flash-memory solid-state audio recorders. In the early 1990s, theatrical digital audio formats replaced the scratchy analog sound we used to hear at the movies, including Dolby Digital, Sony Dynamic Digital Sound (SDDS), and Digital Theater Sound (DTS). Nowadays Dolby Digital is the most common, though most movies carry all three formats, along with analog, to assure support for the widest variety of theaters worldwide.
In terms of the sound quality needed for the ultimate camera, I’d say we’re almost there already. Even though movies are commonly projected in full surround sound, they’re typically recorded using discrete mono channels for dialogue. All of the other sound effects -- that is music and foley (noises of foot steps, clothing movement, etc.) -- are created during post-production.
So if you arm yourself with, say, a Sound Devices 702T solid-state audio recorder capturing 24-bit/192 kHz audio, you’re pretty much at the forefront of the game. Or if that technology is folded into your camera, you’re also set. We’ll continue to achieve higher audio bit-depth and sampling rates with less compression, but I think the average ear has already been satisfied. Just make sure you use a good microphone and learn how to properly place it (or hire someone who does), and you’ll get sound as good as can be.